Plenty of people questioned John Torgerson when he launched his own architecture firm in 2010. After all, the economy was struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Those questions no longer remain. Torgerson Design Partners LLC is approaching $4 million in annual revenue, says the company founder and principal architect, pointing to 36% revenue growth in 2019.
The firm just marked 10 years of business in Ozark, and to further its commitment, a new $3 million office is on the horizon. Torgerson Design has operated at 116 N. Second Ave. in Ozark since 2014, but plans are sketched to begin construction this summer on a three-story, 18,000-square-foot building at the corner of West Jackson and North Third streets. Completion is expected by fall 2021.
“It was important for us to stay in this county seat, this section of Christian County,” Torgerson says.
The property is located in a 15-acre area partially owned by the city of Ozark within the 47-acre Finley River Neighborhood Redevelopment District. It’s sat dormant for more than a decade. Torgerson Design officials have been working with Ozark’s Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority for months to acquire roughly three-quarters of an acre at the site.
“It was a failed development that would have happened in 2009,” Torgerson says of the vacant land unattractive to developers since the recession. “We hope our office will be the spark that just sets the rest of that development up.”
City Administrator Steve Childers says the company spent $11,600 in the transaction with the city. Torgerson says the firm previously purchased additional land from private owners but declined to disclose financial terms.
The desire to jump-start a development is likely born out of the same well of confidence Torgerson tapped into a decade ago.
He left a midlevel job at BRP Architects in Springfield to form Torgerson Ragsdale LLC with architect Bryan Ragsdale. By summer 2011, Torgerson bought out Ragsdale, brought on Adam Kreher as a new partner and changed the firm to its current name.
“That was the Great Depression for us. It truly was in construction,” Torgerson says, describing the industry in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Back then, he recalls, one had to “write your own way or wait and see if your name came next on the layoff list.”
All things considered, Torgerson says the firm’s inaugural year of business was a good one – 28 projects completed and roughly $90,000 in revenue.
“We spent a lot of time just gaining visibility in the marketplace,” he says. “In 2010, if we could get 28 projects, we were probably celebrating.”
By now, the architecture firm’s project list has surpassed 1,400, with jobs spread among 31 states. Its primary focus is in four sectors: hospitality, retail, religious and health care, Torgerson says, adding business is pretty evenly split between them.
Working almost exclusively in commercial work, clients on a national level include Bass Pro Shops, CoxHealth and Andy’s Frozen Custard. Mitchum Jewelers and Scrivener Oil Co. Inc. are among its local clientele.
“It’s not just the project, it’s the relationship. That’s been our philosophy,” Kreher says. “We weren’t trying to just get a project. We had to go out and get a relationship. Relationships can evolve into more than a single project.”
The firm has handled seven projects and counting for Scrivener Oil, says company Vice President Sean Bumgarner. The project costs have ranged from $200,000 for small remodels of the company’s Signal convenience stores to over $700,000 for its headquarters, which relocated to Ozark from Springfield in 2016.
“They’re very patient,” Bumgarner says of the firm. “We don’t do a lot of remodels, so it’s nice to have someone walk you through the project.”
Torgerson says around 95% of its clientele are repeat clients.
“It’s what’s made us successful,” he says.
The firm notched $3.82 million in 2019 revenue, a $1 million boost from 2018. But annual growth isn’t only tied to revenue.
The firm has offered architecture services since day one but added the real estate and development component last year when a third partner, Griffin Bobbett, was brought on board. Bobbett formerly worked at OneSource Realty LLC and has been in commercial and residential real estate since 2016. He’s also married to Torgerson’s oldest daughter, Abbye Torgerson-Bobbett, an associate architect at the firm.
Bobbett currently has a team of three working with clients to buy and sell property, negotiate contracts and manage properties.
“As soon as the office is done, we’ll continue to grow,” Bobbett says of the plan for his staff in the new building.
Although the partners would like to add to the current 25-employee count, it’s just not feasible at this time. After six years at its current office, Torgerson says the firm is out of room.
“I don’t have any room for expansion. We’re at 100% capacity,” he says, noting five of the firm’s employees are working in a rented building kitty-corner from its office on the square.
With the new office, officials prioritized room for growth.
“Our plan is to rent the entire first floor right now,” Torgerson says. “We would operate all three divisions out of the next two floors.”
Drive-thru coffee shop Bigfoot Coffee Co. LLC opened; a pair of Springfield attorneys launched medical marijuana certification clinic The Med Card Co. LLC; and husband-and-wife owners Ryan and Lesley Day debuted their first business venture with the opening of The Farmhouse on Boone Cafe LLC.
Andrea Petersberg, owner of the Local Bevy, says the appeal of a local store holds a lot of value for people in and outside of Springfield. Petersburg says being a supporting part of the local connection for artists is important for her.
Randy Bacon, professional photographer and humanitarian, shares his story on how he left his job in the corporate world to pursue his dream. Now 60 years old and with signature character to his photography and business, he says he still is a 15-year-old boy with a camera.
Becky Thomas, co-owner of Third Street Sportswear, gives her advice for maintaining good relationships with clients. Drawing on her experience working with customers coast to coast, Thomas says equity and fairness are some of the best ways to build trust and respect.
Don Helms, co-owner of Munchie Moe’s, says it's important to know your business and to think ahead of your supply chain. Helms says COVID-19 has changed the way he has experienced business operation. He says foresight is key.
Janet Susdorf, business consultant and founder of Brain Power for Hire, LLC, discusses the importance of adapting and learning from failure. Drawing from the struggles she has faced in her own life as a sixtime cancer survivor, Susdorf talks about when to fight and when to accept change.
Jennifer Charleston, a 20-year veteran of the Springfield Police Department and the only female lieutenant in the department, talks with SBJ’s Christine Temple about her career in law enforcement and her new position in the department as a liaison to the LGBTQ+ community.
Moving from physical meetings to digital meetings can feel like a barrier, but Mackenzie Scherer, an independent technology business consultant, says it can be an opportunity. Scherer says that with good moderation, a digital meeting experience can make people feel more included in the discussion.
Abby Glenn, development director for Habitat for Humanity, says corporate partners are a huge asset to the work they do. Corporate donation matching programs help individual donors feel they are contributing more and help Habitat for Humanity cover the large costs of their projects.
Alex Neville-Verdugo, museum director at the Discovery Center in Springfield, describes the opportunities the Discovery Center has through partnerships with other educational organizations. Neville-Verdugo says the Discovery Center’s virtual learning program reaches across multiple countries, with traffic mostly coming from the U.S. and Canada.
Elizabeth Hurst, business development manager at HR Advantage, says we do see fewer women in the workforce today than before the pandemic. Hurst says many women want more flexible work environments and that is one way employers can capture the female labor force.